Baby Boomer Drug Abuse: Older Adults’ Increasing Struggles with Addiction
According to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, aging baby boomers are struggling with drug abuse at increasingly higher rates.. The report states that the amount of older adults abusing drugs, getting arrested for drug-related crimes, and dying from drug overdoses is increasing steadily. The baby boomer generation’s struggle with drug abuse has been a topic of discussion for the past decade, but Wall Street Journal’s new report is calling attention to the growing problem as the 76 million baby boomers, who as youth used drugs at the highest rates of any other generation, reach older age. Baby boomer drug abuse is a significant, but often overlooked, issue in the United States.
The implications of this trend are important for everyone to be aware of, but they are especially significant for those who work in the substance abuse field. People over 70 years of age are the fastest growing group in the United States, and despite the common co-occurrence of substance use disorders in the baby boomer generation, health care providers often overlook this issue. The predominant drug concerns for the older generation are prescription drug abuse and binge drinking.
Baby Boomer Drug Abuse: Behavioral health expert David Oslin, MD., said a few years ago that older adults tend to have increased sensitivity to alcohol and prescription medications compared with younger adults. Older adults also tend to take more medications, which can interact poorly with alcohol and other drugs. According to the Wall Street Journal report, the baby boomer generation’s chance of dying due to a drug overdose more than doubled the generation before them, and they were roughly 1.67 times as likely to die from a drug overdose as the generation that followed them. Dr. Wilson Compton, deputy director for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said that as the baby boomer generation has aged and brought their drug use and abuse habits into older adult groups, we are seeing significant increases in drug overdose deaths. Given this increase in overdose deaths, baby boomer drug abuse is a topic that should receive more attention and discussion.
Prescription painkillers such as Vicodin are a major drug threat for the baby boomer generation, as they are readily prescribed to older adults after surgery, broken bones, etc. Prolonged use of any drug that alters brain chemicals has the potential for abuse, even if the user is unaware that they have developed a dependency on the substance. This can make it especially difficult for older adults to recognize that they have a drug problem, especially if it was never an issue in the past. The baby boomer drug abuse trends are significant for all populations of our society, as addiction affects not only the individual, but also the individual’s family and extended community.
This new Wall Street Journal report is important as it reminds us that the disease of addiction does not discriminate. Addiction affects people of every age, sex, race, gender, religion, etc., including our elderly population. If you or someone you love is struggling with drug abuse, help is available. No matter what age you are, it is never too late to get help for your addiction. Contact Recovery Advocates’ confidential 24-hour helpline today at 844.723.9256.